Skip to main content

Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

See other formats


The distrust of traditional knowledge which is implicit in
the first Essay becomes explicit when he goes on to examine
the general principles underlying Intellectual Education. His
discussion is simply a one-sided elaboration of the Anschauung
doctrine of Pestalozzi, who was his only master in educational
theory. He sets forth certain formal principles of education, as,
for example, that in education one should proceed from the
simple to the complex; but the sum and substance of them all
is that education is an individual process, which begins with the
concrete experiences of the pupil, calls for learning by personal
discovery, and approves itself satisfactory by creating a pleasurable
excitement. The point of view, indeed, though professedly,in
agreement with Pestalozzi's, is really more like that.of the Emile,
which Spencer had never read.

The coincidence of Spencer's views with those of Rousseau
is still more complete in the Essay on Moral Education.   " When
the child falls or runs his head against the table, it suffers a
pain, the repetition of which tends to make it more careful,
and by repetition of such experiences it is eventually disciplined
into proper guidance of its movements."    In a case like this,
he goes on to say, " Nature illustrates to us the true theory and
practice of moral discipline."   Instead of imposing an artificial
punishment by an arbitrary infliction of pain, the wise parent
will allow the misdeeds of his child to bring its own punishment.
Here the assumption is that physical laws and moral laws are not
fundamentally different.   " The ultimate standards by which all
men judge of behaviour," he says, " are the resulting happiness
or misery.*'   All conduct that brings pain, whether it be the
burning of a finger or stealing, is bad, and its unpleasant conse-
quences for the individual are at once a proof of its badness and
a reason for avoiding it afterwards.    Individualism can go no
farther than this.   In his desire to make"afl 'education, moral as
well as intellectual, spring out of the child's own experience,
Spencer has obliterated the distinction between the natural and
the moral.   The fact that the essence of punishment is not in
the particular form it takes but in the expression of social
disapproval implied in it, is hidden from him by his unwillingness
to recognize that individual life is nothing in itself, but derives
its character from its participation in the ideals and laws of a